The old woman hovers near the woodstove
and drags a calloused hand across her crinkled forehead
as if wiping away smoke and sweat.
She pauses, looking;
her eyes flash between her fingers
and strike my soul.
I feel her in my mind,
all the while reading the history there.
Where have I gone,
on the avenues in my life?
Her hand falls from her face;
her gaze floats above the stove
and absorbs the glow of coals inside
before it reaches through the door.
Her fingers curl and seize an ember
like a vise to etch a jagged pattern in the air.
Her fingers part and the small red star falls to the black oak table
and knocks a fear in the depths of my stomach.
I wander through the city streets of my past,
smelling smoky incense that once meant something:
a sweet perfume that led me to intelligent light
that flung away my darkness
and sparked new life inside my soul.
A violent motion—
her fingers stab the black oak floor,
then snatch a pile of bones lying white:
old knuckles, toes and vertebrae—
some with fur and flesh intact.
She holds the bones in her palm;
they float before her eyes that sparkle
the way the night stars flare
on cloudless nights.
I float above the wires of my nerves
trembling like a lake spilling over.
“Suojata,” she barks;
a wave of gnarled arm
and the bones fly like shooting daggers to my heart.
I clutch my breast
while her cavernous mouth cracks a laugh before the tales begin.